23rd of September, 2010, when the Wildlife SOS rescue helpline received a call about a blind elephant being injured critically in a truck accident. A truck had smashed at breakneck speed into "Bhola," a 45 year old, large male elephant. The truck was damaged and poor Bhola now lay listless on the ground. The Wildlife SOS rescue team reached the location to witness a heartbreaking scene, for the elephant was not only badly injured but was also blind. His regal gray body lay sprawled across the unforgiving tarmac, which was stained red by the blood from his wounds. The offending truck stood close by and seeing its crumpled hood and shattered wind screen, one could only imagine the force with which it had hit this gentle giant.
Acting against time, the rescue team members from Wildlife SOS and the Delhi Police worked together as a team and managed to get the elephant back up on his feet with the help of a crane. A veterinary unit from Friendicoes SECA also reached the location and the two vets worked hard until 3 AM to clean and dress the pussing wounds on Bhola's trunk, back and legs, while also administering painkillers and antibiotics to ease his discomfort. All this while, Bhola stood patiently allowing strangers he did not know to handle and treat him. This gentle giant's faith and tolerance of pain humbled everyone who saw the sight.
Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of Wildlife SOS said, ' The Delhi Police provided us with valuable support and timely assistance in helping Bhola. The WSOS rescue team crew led by Abhishek and Shraddhyesh also did an exemplary job of coordinating the rescue in a timely manner. The badly injured elephant was gently helped to his feet by a crane brought in by the police around 2am. "It was crucial that the elephant was made to stand because it could have suffered multi-organ failure had it remained lying down," he said
Thanks to the quick response of the teams, Bhola made it through the night and is now on the road to recovery. Wildlife SOS continues to monitor his health and recovery progress.
Geeta Seshamani, co-founder and secretary of Wildlife SOS said, "The Friendicoes vets Dr. K.D.Sharma and Dr. Prasad did a great job in working hard till 3 AM to bring Bhola out of immediate danger. Without this combined effort, it would have been an impossible task to save Bhola. The truck driver was arrested and a case of rash and negligent driving registered against him. The truck was on his way from Faridabad to the Azadpur Market. We hope Bhola can be rescued and given a permanent home and a life. It is unbearable to see wild animals treated this way. The owner is certainly guilty of cruelty if he is subjecting a blind elephant to such pain and suffering."
Elephants in India, both wild and domestic are increasingly at the receiving end of human violence and indifference. The same day when Bhola suffered this tragedy in his life but managed to escape miraculously, seven other wild elephants were not as lucky as Bhola and were mowed down in a horrific train accident in North Bengal. The future of these gentle giants sadly rests on the formulation and implementation of strong policies for their protection and the protection of their rapidly disappearing habitat. Human/animal conflict and habitat fragmentation have left these migratory animals in a precarious position, vulnerable to every threat.
Bhola was an overworked and starved elephant to begin with, a veritable cadaver, yet an elephant with a strong will to survive. It took a lot of cajoling, medicines and immense amount of trust from both parties for Bhola to give up his incessant weaving and calm down and begin to benefit from the medicines as half the healing comes from an elephant's psyche.
Currently, Bhola has completed musth without any uncontrollable aggression or accidents. He has an active appetite and his strength is phenomenal.
When Bhola reached the Wildlife SOS Elephant Haven, he was just skin and bones. He was received by Champa who then went on to become his dear friend and companion until the day she left Elephant Haven for her happier home above the clouds. Bhola of course misses Champa and is now slowly making overtures of friendship to the two cow elephants Sai Geeta or Bijli and Maya.
On an evening walk with Bijli and Maya, Bhola curiously explores every bush and living being, and has become more approachable. He will walk up to you and introduce himself and you are in awe of his size alone. Years of ill treatment have left him with a badly sloping back and a peculiar posture but Bhola appears to be ready to forgive and forget. It is perhaps the most touching sight to see how an abused captive elephant regains his interest in simply the day's activities and shows glimpses of humor, articulate conversations with his fellow elephants and regains trust in strangers.
When Bhola was in musth it took a lot to keep him occupied especially since it' s a period when the male elephant is uncomfortable, often in pain and irritable. Like all male elephants in musth Bhola liked to have water near him, frequently spraying himself and spending longer than before in the pond, often creating a scene when his patient mahout would take him out to the shed. During this period, the mahout kept his surroundings very quiet, private with a bamboo screen and fed him choice morsels of green fodder a little at a time to give him something to do.
Now with the musth over, a mud bath and a long walk with Bijli and Maya seems to be his favourite activity.
You can read more of Bhola's story here
all photos © Wildlife SOS